Matthew 14:21
And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) Beside women and children.—St. Matthew is the only Evangelist who mentions their presence, but all the four use the word which emphasises the fact that all the five thousand were men. As the crowd had come in many cases from considerable distances, the women and children were probably few in number, were grouped together by themselves, and were not counted, so that the round number dwelt in men’s minds without reference to them.

14:13-21 When Christ and his word withdraw, it is best for us to follow, seeking the means of grace for our souls before any worldly advantages. The presence of Christ and his gospel, makes a desert not only tolerable, but desirable. This little supply of bread was increased by Christ's creating power, till the whole multitude were satisfied. In seeking the welfare of men's souls, we should have compassion on their bodies likewise. Let us also remember always to crave a blessing on our meals, and learn to avoid all waste, as frugality is the proper source of liberality. See in this miracle an emblem of the Bread of life, which came down from heaven to sustain our perishing souls. The provisions of Christ's gospel appear mean and scanty to the world, yet they satisfy all that feed on him in their hearts by faith with thanksgiving.Five thousand men, besides ... - Probably the whole number might have been ten thousand, To feed so many was an act of great benevolence and a stupendous miracle. Mt 14:12-21. Hearing of the Baptist's Death, Jesus Crosses the Lake with Twelve, and Miraculously Feeds Five Thousand. ( = Mr 6:30-44; Lu 9:10-17; Joh 6:1-14).

For the exposition of this section—one of the very few where all the four Evangelists run parallel—see on [1302]Mr 6:30-44.

Ver. 17-21. In the relation of this story by the other evangelists there is no difference in what is material; the others relate some circumstances more, as that they sat down on the grass, and by fifties, one saith, by hundreds and by fifties, & c.; but they all agree in the quantity of the provision, five loaves and two fishes; the number of the persons fed, five thousand (only one addeth, besides women and children); and in the number of the baskets full of fragments; and in our Saviour’s lifting up his eyes to heaven, and blessing them. These are the main things observable in this history. In the history of the miracle, as there is no difference between the evangelists to be reconciled, so there is no difficulty to be explained. It is a plain relation of a matter of fact, by which our Lord evidently showed himself to be the Son of God, God blessed for ever, for he must in this necessarily exert a creating power: here must be a production of a substance or being out of a not being, or it had not been possible that five thousand men (besides women and children) should have been fed with five loaves and two fishes; and therefore some think that it is said that Christ blessed the loaves as he blessed the living creatures, Genesis 1:22; but we have not here the following words, Be fruitful and multiply, which inclines me rather to think, that the blessing mentioned here, upon his lifting up of his eyes to heaven, was a begging God’s blessing upon their food, himself thereby paying the homage of his human nature to his Father, and teaching us, according to that, 1 Timothy 4:4,5, to receive the good creatures which God’s providence affords us for our nourishment with thanksgiving, sanctifying them by prayer. By this miracle, and others of the like nature, our Saviour took from the unbelieving Jews all manner of cavil and exception to his works. Though devils might by compact give place one to another, and some exorcists of their own might seem to cast them out, yet none ever pretended to multiply bread and fish, to such a proportion as this, that such a quantity of either should feed such a number, and leave such a remainder. This history like wise further instructs us, both concerning the low condition of Christ and his disciples, their faith in the word of Christ, and our duty, and safety in depending upon his providence while we are doing of our duty, and minding the things of the kingdom of God, and obeying the will of God. St. John observeth the fruit of this miracle, John 6:14, Those men, when they had seen the miracle which Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.

And they that had eaten were about five thousand men,.... The word "about", is omitted in the Vulgate Latin, in Munster's Hebrew Gospel, and in the Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions, which expressly say there were so many. A large number indeed, to be fed with five loaves and two fishes!

besides women and children; who were not taken into the account, though they all ate, and were filled, it not being usual with the Jews to number their women; and who might be near as large a number as the men: for generally there is a very great concourse of the female sex, and of children, where anything extraordinary, or out of the way, is to be seen or heard; and of this sort was a large number of Christ's audience, who only came out of curiosity, or for one sinister end or another.

And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 14:21. πεντακισχίλιοι, 5000 men, not counting women and children. This helps us to attach some definite meaning to the elastic words, ὄχλος, ὄχλοι, so frequently occurring in the Gospels. Doubtless this was an exceptionally great gathering, yet the inference seems legitimate that ὄχλος meant hundreds, and πολὺς ὄχλος thousands.

Matthew 14:21. Γυναικῶν καὶ παιδίων, women and children) of whom no doubt there was a large number.

Verse 21. - And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children. Only Matthew mentions the presence of other than men. We may assume that no great number of women and children were there; and this, considering the distance that most had been obliged to go (ver. 13), is what we should expect. "Observe here the diminutive παιδίων, little children, whom their mothers either carried in their arms or led by the hand" (Meyer). Matthew 14:21
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